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    Finding an Automotive Repair Shop You Can Trust

Rich Diegle
Automotive Technical Editor

Searching for a competent automobile technician can be similar to finding a doctor. The person you choose to diagnose and treat your car has to be both professionally qualified and trustworthy. After all, this is a family member - right?

Since most of us know even less about overhauling an engine than we do about heart surgery, choosing a shop with qualified technicians can be very stressful. Finding a good technician can be a tough task, but once you locate one, you'll discover that in addition to quality work, he also brings you peace of mind. And that, my friends, is what you are really looking for.

Here are some stress-relieving tips:

Use the Internet
  • Use our Find A Shop tool to find professional shops that use ALLDATAź, the industry’s leading automotive repair information system. Use the Find A Shop feature to search for professional shops in your area (or anywhere in the country if you're on the road and need a technician). The Find A Shop feature can save you a lot of time up front because it offers detailed information about shops including certifications, photos, personnel and areas of expertise.
  • Look for a specialty shop that services your particular type of vehicle (Examples: Asian, European, Domestic). These shops tend to employ technicians with dealership experience for your particular make.
  • If you call for an appointment and can’t get one the same day, that’s a good sign. If a shop is good, they could be booked for as long as two weeks. Note that many professional shops you find through Find A Shop offer online appointment scheduling for your convenience - if you have to schedule an online appointment that’s a few days away, that means the shop is popular.
Shop Interview
  • It’s a good idea to check out a shop before you actually need their services. Talk to the owner/service writer and tell him or her what kind of car you have and what your concerns are. Are they genuinely concerned with your questions and are their answers direct and professional?
  • Is the facility neat and clean? Do the technicians wear uniforms? Viewing their website beforehand can be useful because most shops will post photos.
  • Look around the inside and outside. Avoid garages that have piles of junk sitting around. A collection of old cars on blocks and garbage indicates that the owner may not care about his business very much, and may not care about your car.
  • Ask about the equipment used to diagnose and perform services. Is it up-to-date, and are the technicians educated in the proper use of the equipment?
  • Look at the credentials of the business and the employees who will service your vehicle. An important insignia to look for is the National Institute for Automotive Service Excellence (ASE) emblem. This indicates that at least one technician working at that shop has passed tests given by the ASE. Note: ASE examinations are tough, and you have to know a lot about entire vehicle systems to pass the tests. Again, viewing the shop website beforehand can give you this information, especially if the shop is affiliated with AutoZone’s Find A Shop program.
  • Most shops will post educational certifications, accomplishments, professional business associations and important trade affiliations in their waiting areas. Look for the Automotive Service Association (ASA), the Better Business Bureau (BBB), Certified ALLDATA Information Specialist (CAIS), the Inter-Industry Conference on Auto Collision Repair (I-CAR) and the Automotive Management Institute (AMI).
  • Make sure a written estimate is provided prior to letting the shop begin the repair.
  • Ask about the shop’s warranty program. Most automotive service facilities will warranty their parts and labor either in writing or in shop-posted announcements.
  • They should be using a computerized automotive information system (like ALLDATAź) that provides up-to-date technical service bulletins and important repair information. They also should have some kind of shop management software to help them maximize their efficiency.
  • Find shops that accommodate late-night pick up and drop off, transportation assistance and flexible service. It’s a good bet that a shop that has considered their customers' needs will treat the customer responsibly.
Additional Tips
  • Ask family, friends and neighbors for their recommendations. It’s great to get referrals from other people who have had favorable, long-term relationships with repair shops.
  • Take some time to read the local newspaper’s automotive and community events sections. Often, a shop owner or technician will write automotive articles and/or sponsor local activities and charities. If someone is willing to devote a lot of time to their community and their business, you can bet they will invest quality time repairing your vehicle. Visit the shop website (the Find A Shop feature can direct you to their site) to view details about community sponsorships, professional organizations, and other important details about the shop that will help you make your decision to give them your business.
  • If your state has a department of consumer affairs automotive repair division, contact them and ask if the shop has had any customer complaints.
  • Check with local car clubs. Many times, car clubs have great lists of recommended shops that their members have used and given positive feedback on.
  • Note that it’s not a good idea to “coupon shop,” or hop from shop to shop based on specials or bargains. There is much to be said for quality, integrity and comfort in a relationship with your repair shop. Remember to be a good customer. The bottom line is, “Quality is remembered long after the price is forgotten!”

The information contained in this article is for informational purposes only and is not intended as legal or professional advice.